Leeds Beckett University
AnExplorationOfSituatedCognitionInSportCoachingUsingThreeContrastingMethodologicalApproaches-QUICK_Redacted.pdf (10.49 MB)

An exploration of situated cognition in sport coaching using three contrasting methodological approaches

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posted on 2023-01-18, 11:28 authored by Simon QuickSimon Quick

Sport coaching has been described as a dynamic, complex and at times, messy, activity that occurs in specific social contexts (Abraham & Collins, 1998; Bowes & Jones, 2006; Cushion, 2007; Jones & Wallace, 2005; Lyle, 2018). Existing research that explores coaching cognitions is, to date, limited in capturing, acknowledging and making sense of the rich socio-cultural backdrop in which coaches mentally operate and practice. The aim of this research is to explore situated coaching cognitions, notably the how (style) and what (content) of coaches’ thinking, whilst explicitly capturing the environmental constraints and affordances of the layered contextual environment in which coaching is situated. 

As part of a complex research design, three contrasting methodological approaches have been used. These gradually progress towards an embedded and highly-contextualised research setting. The research adopts the situated cognition paradigm and consists of three self-contained but connected studies that describe, conceptually refine, and situate cognitions within a rich coaching context. In study 1, a modified Applied Cognitive Task Analysis, along with stimulated recall, was used to reveal coaching tasks and a framework of higher psychological functions (types of thinking in which specific cognitions can be grouped). In study 2, coaching cognitions in a micro-management setting were examined using Think Aloud Protocol. It found that coaches engage strategies to overcome difficulties caused by their environment. However, the findings suggest that as coaching becomes more time-dependent, the influence and strength of wider contextual factors diminishes and therefore, coaches are unable to contextualise and reason whilst practising in complex environmental conditions. Study 3 engaged with the findings from the previous studies and drew upon the ERE model (North, 2017) to inform an ethnographic approach, which identified and examined situated cognitions in a researcher-embedded setting. As part of this study, the socio-cultural layers and stakeholder goals were explicitly captured in order to offer a refined and more sophisticated perspective of situated cognitions.

The findings reveal that cognition is highly dependent upon, and influenced by, practical constraints and the social context in which it manifests. Themes such as goals, stakeholders and history help academics and coaches to understand better the challenging and intricately-balanced setting in which coaches mentally operate and practice. Consequently, this body of work recommends that future in situ research should explicitly consider the broader context, domain, and coaching purpose as ‘cornerstones’ upon which to explore cognitions.


Qualification name

  • PhD


North, Julian ; Lyle, John

Awarding Institution

Leeds Beckett University

Completion Date


Qualification level

  • Doctoral


  • eng


Leeds Beckett University

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